Eight Great Tips for Homemade Pizza

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6. The Secret Simple Sauce

Store-bought pizza and marinara sauces work well in a pinch, but the homemade variety is always best for bringing big flavor to your carb canvas. For a fast and fresh sauce, heat a medium-size saucepan over low heat, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, and then add chopped onions and garlic. Briefly sauté the mix until the garlic is golden brown, then stir in your choice of fresh or canned chopped tomatoes.

Next, season the sauce with fresh herbs such as oregano and basil, as well as my secret ingredient: Parmesan cheese rinds. No piece of Parmesan should ever go to waste, and the rinds add rich flavor to the tangy tomato base. Allow the sauce to simmer until it thickens slightly, and then remove the rinds before spooning the prepared sauce onto your pizza.

7. Lighten Up on Toppings

As tempting as it may be to pile on the pepperoni, use a light touch when it comes to pizza toppings, beginning with the sauce. Use the back of a large spoon or a ladle to evenly spread the sauce on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border for the crust. Next, sprinkle on the cheese so that it's evenly distributed over the sauce, and then finish off your pizza with your choice of meat and veggie toppings. Less is more when it comes to the ingredients atop your dough, as a heavy load translates to a soggy pizza.

8. Don't Fear the Dark Side

Once the crust turns golden brown and the cheese gets bubbly, be patient and give your pie an extra minute or two in the oven to ensure the dough is fully baked and to further darken the distinctive bubbles that add character and flavor to the crust. The best thin-crust pizzas have dark, crispy bottoms. Baked right, a good slice wont bend when picked up and will hold its shape without requiring the "New York Fold" (folding a slice in half lengthwise to strengthen the crust, ensuring it hangs on to every last topping).

Pizza is one of the most versatile and picky-eater-pleasing foods. It can be enjoyed day or night with all sorts of toppings. Go ahead and get creative when it comes to flavors and textures, be it bacon- and egg-topped pizzas for breakfast, salad-topped pizzas for lunch or dinner, or marshmallow- and chocolate-topped pizzas for a sweet slice of dessert.

Scott McMillen is a chef-instructor in the career Pastry and Baking Arts Program at The Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in New York City. He also teaches steakhouse classes and leads cooking parties for ICE's recreational-cooking program.

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